As the Yankees deconstruct their 2021 campaign and chart a path into 2022, general manager Brian Cashman has pledged to be “open-minded to everything and anything” regarding the roster, aiming to re-establish his club as a favorite in the American League East.
“There will be some legitimate choices to reconfigure in certain categories,” Cashman said. “I acknowledge that we’re not as athletic as we’d like to be, and certainly not as contact-oriented as we’d like to be.”
With organizational meetings underway to evaluate which players they should count on in ’22, here is a brief review of the team’s most significant contributors and how they performed this past season:
Gary Sánchez (third-year arbitration eligible)
Cashman was non-committal when discussing Sánchez’s status as the starting catcher, saying, “We’ll see.” Sánchez posted a .204/.307/.423 slash line in 117 games, hitting 23 homers with 54 RBIs, then was on the bench for the AL Wild Card Game. There has been debate within the front office about a non-tender of Sánchez, who earned $6.35 million in ’21.
Kyle Higashioka (first-year arbitration eligible)
One of the longest-tenured players in the organization, the 31-year-old Higashioka batted .181/.246/.389 with 10 homers and 29 RBIs in 67 games. A defense-first backup, Higashioka particularly excelled according to defensive metrics, ranking in the 84th percentile of catcher framing, per Statcast.
Rob Brantly (first-year arbitration eligible)
The 32-year-old Brantly collected three hits in 20 at-bats over six big league games this past season. In 68 games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Brantly compiled a .289/.379/.456 slash line with nine homers and 43 RBIs.
Anthony Rizzo (free agent after World Series)
Rizzo’s arrival in a late July trade boosted the Bombers’ left-handed balance and athleticism, as the 32-year-old batted .249/.340/.428 with eight homers and 21 RBIs in 49 games with the Yankees, numbers somewhat weakened by a stint on the COVID-19 injured list. Rizzo earned $16.5 million this past year and his future is unclear after having turned down a five-year, $70 million extension from the Cubs.
Luke Voit (second-year arbitration eligible)
After leading the Majors with 22 homers during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Voit struggled to remain on the field in ’21, his injury woes prompting the Rizzo trade. Can Voit be penciled in as the first baseman for ’22? The Yankees shopped Voit before the Trade Deadline but were unable to find an acceptable match. He hit .239/.328/.437 with 11 homers and 35 RBIs in 68 games and will turn 31 in February.
DJ LeMahieu (signed through 2026)
LeMahieu led the Majors with a .364 batting average during the shortened ’20 season, finishing third in the MVP race and bringing home a Silver Slugger Award, but the 33-year-old’s production slipped in ’21. LeMahieu hit .268/.349/.362 with 10 homers and 57 RBIs in 150 games and required surgery in October to address a sports hernia. LeMahieu could fit defensively at first base, second base or third base, based on needs.
Gleyber Torres (second-year arbitration eligible)
In September, the Yankees abandoned their experiment of having Torres as the starting shortstop, with Cashman acknowledging that he profiles better as a second baseman. Torres seemed to respond well to the shift, but his power drop remains a mystery. Having slugged 38 homers in 2019, Torres has managed only 12 long balls in 169 games across 2020-21.
Rougned Odor (signed through 2022)
The Rangers agreed to pay nearly all of Odor’s remaining salary as a condition of the April trade that brought the 27-year-old to New York. Odor delivered several big hits in clutch situations and was a positive on-field presence, contributions hidden within his .202/.286/.379 slash line. Odor hit 15 homers with 39 RBIs in 102 games.
Tyler Wade (first-year arbitration eligible)
The fastest player on the roster according to Statcast, Wade appeared at every defensive position except pitcher, catcher and first base this past season. In 103 games, Wade batted .268/.354/.323 with five RBIs and 31 runs scored, pacing the club with 17 steals. He turns 27 in November and fits the stated needs for athleticism and versatility.
Andrew Velazquez (arbitration eligible in 2023)
The Bronx-born Velazquez represented one of the feel-good stories of this past season, providing a spark after his August callup. Temporarily bunking in his childhood bedroom, Velazquez hit .224/.235/.358 in 28 games, then got the nod at shortstop for the AL Wild Card Game at Fenway Park.
Gio Urshela (third-year arbitration eligible)
Urshela continued to be a steady contributor at the hot corner, then proved to be an adequate replacement at shortstop, though his offense dipped off its 2019-20 levels. In 116 games, Urshela batted .267/.301/.419 with 14 homers and 49 RBIs. He turned 30 in October and projects as the starting third baseman for ’22.
Miguel Andújar (first-year arbitration eligible)
Injuries have stalled Andújar’s progress after an impressive 2018 debut that saw him finish second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. Having expanded his toolset to play the corner infield and outfield spots, Andújar appeared in 45 big league games this year, batting .253/.284/383 with six homers and 12 RBIs.
Joey Gallo (third-year arbitration eligible)
Gallo will represent an offensive project in ’22 after batting .160/.303/.404 with 13 homers and 22 RBIs following his July acquisition from the Rangers, striking out 88 times against 37 walks in 228 plate appearances. Gallo turns 28 in November and the Yanks see him as a plus-defender in left field, with Cashman recently lauding his athleticism (if not his contact-hitting ability).
Aaron Judge (third-year arbitration eligible)
Judge enjoyed one of his finest seasons in ’21, the Yanks’ most reliable offensive star from wire to wire. Judge hit .287/.373/.544 in 148 games, leading the club in runs (89), homers (39), RBIs (98), walks (75), OPS (.916) and total bases (299). Judge, who turns 30 in April, has said that he is open to a contract extension. Judge earned $10.175 million in ’21.
Giancarlo Stanton (signed through 2027)
Stanton recaptured his MVP-caliber form as a force in the lineup this past season, batting .273/.354/.516 with 35 home runs and 97 RBIs in 139 games. His September surge helped power the Yanks into the postseason, and Stanton seemed to benefit from increased time in the field, a promising development that could aid flexibility going into ’22.
Aaron Hicks (signed through 2025)
The switch-hitting Hicks should be ready for Spring Training after recovering from left wrist surgery to repair a torn tendon sheath, performed in May. If so, that would solidify center field. Hicks played in just 32 games this past season, batting .194/.294/.333 with four homers and 14 RBIs, marking his return from Tommy John surgery performed in October 2020.
Brett Gardner (club/player options for ‘22)
A fixture in the outfield since 2008, the 38-year-old may contemplate retirement, coming off a campaign in which he batted .222/.327/.362 with 10 homers and 39 RBIs in 140 games. Gardner’s offense ticked up in August and September, and he remains a dependable defender. Gardner has a $2.3 million player option for ’22 or a $7.15 million club option, with a $1.15 million buyout.
Clint Frazier (second-year arbitration eligible)
Frazier’s future with the club is in doubt as he continues to deal with dizziness and fogginess, potentially stemming from concussions earlier in his career. Frazier remains in regular contact with club medical personnel, but he batted .186/.317/.317 in 66 games this past year and did not appear in the Majors after June 30. Issuing an arbitration raise over his ’21 salary of $2.1 million seems to be a gamble.
Gerrit Cole (signed through 2028)
The ace right-hander finished the year as a top contender for the American League’s Cy Young Award, despite a September slide impacted by a left hamstring injury and possible fatigue. The 31-year-old Cole led the AL with 16 wins, two complete games and a 5.93 strikeout-to-walk ratio, posting a 3.23 ERA over 181 1/3 innings in 30 starts.
Luis Severino (signed through 2022)
Injuries have kept Severino off the mound throughout most of the four-year, $40 million extension inked in February 2019. Severino made it back to appear in four big league games this past year, hurling six scoreless innings. Severino turns 28 in February, and the Yanks would love to see him claim the No. 2 spot in the rotation behind Cole.
Jordan Montgomery (third-year arbitration eligible)
Montgomery was one of the Yanks’ most dependable starters in ’21, posting a 3.83 ERA across a career-high 30 starts and 157 1/3 innings. The left-hander’s 6-7 record would have improved with decent run support, averaging 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings. Montgomery will score a sizable raise over the $2.13 million he earned in ’21.
Jameson Taillon (third-year arbitration eligible)
Taillon returned to the Majors after missing all of ’20 and most of ’19, offering an 8-6 record with a 4.30 ERA in 29 starts. Taillon had excellent control, issuing 44 walks against 140 strikeouts in 144 1/3 innings. Though his season debut will be delayed while Taillon recovers from ankle surgery, Taillon is due a raise over his $2.25 million salary.
Domingo Germán (first-year arbitration eligible)
Germán was 4-5 with a 4.58 ERA in 22 games (18 starts) this past season, which included a stint on the injured list with shoulder inflammation. The right-hander missed the 2019 postseason and all of 2020 while serving a suspension under Major League Baseball’s policy against domestic violence.
Nestor Cortes (first-year arbitration eligible)
Cortes’ emergence was one of the most pleasant surprises of ’21, posting a 2.90 ERA in 22 games (14 starts). In 93 innings, the deceptive left-hander struck out 103 against 25 walks, scattering 75 hits. Cortes will likely prepare as a starter for ’22, but he could see time in the bullpen if necessary.
Corey Kluber (free agent after the World Series)
A two-time Cy Young Award winner during his time with the Indians, Kluber’s season highlight was a May 19 no-hitter against the Rangers in Texas. Kluber spent three months on the injured list with a right shoulder injury, then returned to the rotation in late August. Kluber earned $11 million and will be 36 in April.
A right elbow strain limited Schmidt to 38 innings in the Minors and 6 1/3 innings in the Majors this past season. The right-hander, New York’s first-round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, will turn 26 in February. He projects to enter the spring competing for a place in the rotation or bullpen.
Aroldis Chapman (signed through 2022)
The fireballing “Cuban Missile” had an inconsistent season in the closer’s role, hitting a midsummer swoon before finishing strong. In 61 appearances, Chapman pitched to a 3.36 ERA with 30 saves, enjoying his seventh All-Star selection. Chapman turns 34 in February; expect to see him begin the year as the closer.
Chad Green (third-year arbitration eligible)
Green was one of the most heavily used options out of the bullpen this season, pitching to a 3.12 ERA in 67 appearances. His best weapon is a fastball that appears to rise as it approaches hitters. Green earned $2.15 million in 2021.
Lucas Luetge (free agent after the World Series)
The left-hander was an out-of-nowhere addition to the bullpen, a non-roster invitee who came north after a stellar spring. Luetge pitched to a 2.74 ERA in 57 appearances. It would not be surprising to see the Yankees pursue a reunion.
Jonathan Loáisiga (first-year arbitration eligible)
Loáisiga owns some of the best pure stuff on the roster, and the Nicaraguan righty pitched to a 2.17 ERA in 57 appearances this season. His return from a right shoulder injury provided a September boost to the bullpen.
Wandy Peralta (third-year arbitration eligible)
An in-season acquisition from the Giants, Peralta quickly became one of the Yankees’ most trusted relief options, pitching to a 2.95 ERA in 46 appearances. Peralta earned $925,000 in 2021.
Clay Holmes (first-year arbitration eligible)
A midseason pickup from the Pirates, Holmes was excellent after putting on the pinstripes, pitching to a 1.61 ERA in 25 appearances. A reduction in his walk rate has teamed with Holmes’ ability to induce ground balls, making the 26-year-old a good fit for the future.
Joely Rodríguez (club option for 2022)
Acquired from the Rangers as part of the July Gallo trade, Rodríguez was an under-the-radar pickup who pitched to a 2.84 ERA in 21 appearances for New York. Expect to see the Yankees pick up his $3 million option for ’22, which has a $500,000 buyout.
Michael King (arbitration eligible in 2023)
The right-hander offers multi-inning flexibility to the bullpen; until his final appearance of the regular season on Oct. 2, his first 21 outings spanned four outs or more, a franchise record.
Albert Abreu (under team control)
The 26-year-old right-hander pitched to a 5.15 ERA in 28 big league contests, finishing 14 games. He’ll likely enter the spring in competition for a bullpen spot.
Zack Britton (signed through 2022)
The left-hander will miss most, if not all, of ’22 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Britton pitched to a 5.89 ERA in 22 appearances this past year, a significant step back after being one of the club’s most reliable bullpen choices in 2018-20.
Nick Nelson (under team control)
Consistency was Nelson’s issue in ’21, a season that dawned with club personnel hyping the righty’s potential as a breakout bullpen piece. Nelson has pitched to a 6.43 ERA in 22 big league games across 2020-21.